Graeme McPherson has a dual career as racehorse trainer with a 40-box yard in Gloucestershire and as a Queenâ€™s Counsel, often operating for the Bloody Hopeless Amateurs in disciplinary cases. Yesterday, he was across the desk from the BHA panel, as trainer McPherson appealed against the Â£3000 fine imposed by stewards at Chepstow last month for deliberately running a horse down the field.
His horse Traditional Bob had finished in fifth place in a novice hurdle on 25 October, having been held up before progressing into mid-division through the final bend and passing another three horses in the straight. That in itself would not be unusual, but the Chepstow stewards took the view that McPherson had used the race as a schooling exercise.
McPherson submitted a 13 page document setting out his arguments against this finding and told the panel that it had been "abhorrent to me that anyone could suggest I had been cheating in some way. I would not embarrass myself by cheating, or embarrass the BHA by cheating. I know the rules as well as any trainer and the importance of abiding by them as well as any trainer."
He also explained that he had received considerable abuse and criticism over the last three weeks because of his high profile role within the BHA. "I have brought back and can cope with criticism. What I have, however, struggled with the telephone calls and e-mails that I've received since Chepstow telling me that I'm a disgrace to racing, that I ought to resign from my position on the (BHA's) rules committee, that Iâ€™m a hypocrite given the prosecutions I've undertaken in the past, that the Bar Standards Board ought to disbar me and so forth."
The disciplinary panel watched the race from several different camera angles, including two that were unavailable to the Chepstow stewards. It took them less than 2 minutes to present their case, as they did not challenge McPherson's submission.
Speaking afterwards, he said, "It's not an experience I want to repeat. I've had more than three (abusive phone calls), and it's got to the stage where I stopped answering unknown numbers. If the panel had upheld the ruling that we had deliberately set out to cheat, I would have had to inform the (Bar Standards) board. It would have had ramifications far outside racing."
Traditional Bob's jockey, Jodie Mogford, had the charge against him reduced from one of schooling in public to one of not taking all reasonable measures to finish in the best possible place. His 14-day ban was reduced to 7 days, and Mogford accepted that "I should have been seen to show the public that the horse had no more to give".
Supporting Mogford's case, McPherson said, "Jodie thought he was on a horse that was about to fall in a hole and didn't have much left, but in fact his run on better-than-expected. Jodie has accepted, having been through the videos many times, but knowing the rules state he should have been seen to be taking all permissible measures, it ought to have been possible to see him doing more in those last two furlongs. The reason he hasn't is not for a sinister reason, it was just the thought the horse had little more to give."
The successful appeal leaves McPherson with his reputation unblemished, and the 40-day ban that was imposed on running Traditional Bob was also lifted with immediate effect.